Walter Chodack – a truly great Mozart pianist

This is undoubtedly the best account of Mozart’s keyboard variations I have ever heard – I say that unreservedly, having listened to all the great and possibly better-known Mozartians. Obviously it is difficult to justify such a claim, but I can only fall back on my own personal method of judgement when it comes to interpretations of Mozart’s keyboard works – the three Ts: Tempo, Technique and Taste. Walter Chodack consistently shows breathtaking mastery in all three, while one generally finds that even the greatest artists will fall down on at least one. With tempo, there often been a tendency to play Mozart too fast in the quick movements and too slowly in the slow movements – the result tends to be a queasy mix of sentimentality and/or vulgarity. With technique, an enormous amount could be said, but in Chodack’s cycle of recordings one particular aspect stands out – the extent to which the subtleties in the left hand, in the lower registers, are so clearly revealed. Devotees of the fortepiano, the early type of piano that Mozart played, will always tell you how well suited that instrument is for giving an even account of upper and lower registers. Modern pianos, with their powerfully engineered lower octaves, can easily submerge and cloud the subtleties in the 18th century bass. Chodack’s playing shows this need never be so. Finally, taste. It is nearly impossible to take a stance on this without provoking derision or anger, so I would simply say that Chodack is one of the rare performers who allows Mozart to speak for himself. There is no unwelcome intrusion of performance-personality here, no cooption of the music for the purpose of self-advancement. That is what constitutes bad taste in Mozart intepretation, and there is not an atom of that here. That is, perhaps, the greatest compliment I can pay Dr Chodack. Anyone who loves Mozart and wants to get to know him better should listen to these recordings. They are as close to the presence as you can get.

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